31 DaysDay 16: DEATHBED CONVERSIONS {the prompt follows at the end of this post}

{start}

Here’s to You

Seth wasn’t sure which was gloomier, the gray, rainy day outside or the dim, sterile room where his father appeared to be sleeping fitfully. At least I can do something about the mood inside, Seth thought and he opened the curtains and the blinds enough to let in whatever gray daylight he could. He also switched on the three table lamps the Hospice workers had arranged around the room. The lamps created a warm glow and Seth took a seat on the love seat by the window and took out his iPhone. It was a nervous habit, but as long as he admitted it, he figured it was okay and he’d just go ahead and scroll through Facebook.

His father shifted and stirred, pushing himself up slightly against the pillows. He squinted at Seth.

“Hey, Dad, yeah, it’s me. Seth.”

“I’ll be…” He tried to sit up, but couldn’t.

Seth moved awkwardly to his side. “Here, let me,” Seth said.

“There’s a button on here somewhere,” his dad told him.

A Hospice worker stepped into the room. “Need anything, Archie?” he asked.

“Can you help me get him so he’s sitting up?” Seth asked her.

“Sure thing. My name’s Steve, by the way.” Steve moved around Seth and fished the remote control from where it had fallen beneath the rail. “Here you go.”

“Thanks,” Archie said. “This is my son, Seth.”

Seth reached out a hand and shook Steve’s. “Nice to meet you,” he said.

“You, too,” Steve replied. “Need anything else, Archie?”

Archie grinned at him. “What time do you have, Steve?”

“About ten minutes till five,” Steve said.

“How ’bout you come back and ask me that question at a few minutes past the hour?”

“Sure thing, Archie. Back in a few.”

“Thanks,” Seth said and stood awkwardly for several moments.

“I’m glad to see you,” Archie said.

“Yeah,” Seth said. He sat on the edge of the love seat feeling more than a little self-conscious. For reasons he couldn’t understand, he had no idea what to talk about, so he went with the some of the obvious things. They talked about the Red Sox and their post-season chances and then moved on to Seth’s current work projects and his upcoming wedding.

“She’s a sweet girl,” Archie told him and Seth nodded. He and Lily had talked about moving up the date of their wedding, but too many things were already in place that they’d end up losing too much money from the deposits.

“She likes you a whole lot, too,” Seth said and cleared his throat.

Steve came back into the room. “Okay, Archie, it’s now several minutes after the hour. What do you need?”

Archie looked at Seth. “Would you excuse us for just a few minutes, son?”

“Oh. Yeah. Sure.” Seth headed out into the hall and looked out the window. There was a small break in the clouds and a few rays of sun were pushing back the gray. He sighed and pulled out his phone, checking for new messages even though he knew there weren’t any. Steve left the room and signaled it was okay to go back in.

“So, what’s up?” Seth asked his dad. Archie simply shook his head and smiled. He looked tired, but there was a mischievous gleam in his eye. “Okay,” Seth said. “I’ll play along.” Archie winked at him.

“Steve’ll be back here in a minute, and we should talk about things,” Archie said. “Before he gets back.” Seth pulled his phone out of his pocket. “It’s okay, Seth. Really. It is. I’ve made my peace with it.”

“I haven’t.”

“You will,” Archie said.

“What if I don’t want to?” Seth said.

“Cancer’s not giving you a choice, Son. Neither is the doc,” Archie told him. “Not more than twelve or so hours before I lapse back into the in and out again.”

Seth turned away and looked out the window. The sun was shining much brighter now, it’s golden light playing off the autumn colors on the trees. Steve knocked quietly on the door and entered carrying a small silver tray with two short glasses and a bottle of single malt Scotch.

“Dad?” Seth looked at Archie.

“Steve would you put that here, where I can reach it?” Steve placed the tray on the night table next to Archie’s bed. “Between you and me, right?” Archie said as Steve opened the door. Steve gave a quick nod and smiled as he disappeared into the hall.

“You’ve been sober twenty-three years,” Seth said.

Archie shifted a bit and poured two inches of Scotch shakily into each glass. “My terms,” he said and gestured to a glass. Seth hesitated for a moment and then stepped forward and picked up the glass. He handed the other to his dad, whose eyes brimmed with tears. “To you, Son, in honor of the man you’ve become and to your upcoming nuptials. A toast for much happiness ahead.”

“And to the man you’ve always been,” Seth added.

Seth clinked his glass gently against his dad’s and took a drink, watching Archie over the rim. Archie held the glass under his nose for a moment and breathed in the smoky aroma and a tear slid down his cheek. He looked over his own rim at Seth watching him. “Love you, Son,” he said and take a long drink.

Seth smiled through his own tears. “So?”

“I’ve missed that taste for twenty-three years,” he admitted. “But I got to have you.”

“Today, you get to have both.” He raised his glass once again to his dad, smiled and took a long drink from his glass.

{stop}

{Just a reminder, we try to keep these writing exercises to 30 minutes maximum, but that’s not a hard and fast rule. And I will say that in order to keep my writing within the 15 to 30 minute time, I create playlists on Spotify that allow me to put together songs that come close to 30 minutes. I also select music that fits with the story idea and help inspire the words I write. When the final note plays on the last song…I stop writing. Usually.}

Writing Prompt: DEATHBED CONVERSIONS – write a short death scene in which the person dying changes his mind about something fundamental to the life that is about to be completed. Describe the death as naturally and calmly as you can. Don’t go for drama. Treat the event of this death as if it were an ordinary occurrence. The conversion does not have to be all that grand either. Respect this conversion – it should be an important matter to the dying person. {Exercise 77 from The 3 A.M. Epiphany: Uncommon Writing Exercises that Transform Your Fiction by Brian Kiteley. Note, this is an affiliate link}

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One thought on “Here’s to You

  1. This one was interesting, having been sober since 1990, I don’t know if I would have made this same choice. I felt very anxious reading it. I get the toast idea for his son though.

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